With the latest narrowbody commercial aircraft offering huge gains in efficiency and range, many have been speculating that these jets will be used to unlock new routes and enable more point-to-point travel. This won’t be the case for Qatar Airways and its future A321LRs, however. The airline’s CEO says that the jets will instead be used to replace larger jets on routes during seasons of lower demand.
A fleet of 10 A321LRs
It was back at the end of January 2019 that Qatar Airways announced the conversion of 10 of its 50 Airbus A321neo order to the A321LR. In the 2019 statement, the airline said that it would use the A321LR to connect Doha to “new growing markets” where demand was insufficient for a widebody. Alternately, the jets would fly where the airline’s current narrowbodies (A320/A321) are unable to reach. The airline also added the following:
“Alternatively, the new aircraft will be adopted to provide additional frequencies on existing Qatar Airways routes, giving our loyal passengers more choice and flexibility when they travel.”
Of course, a lot has changed since the start of 2019, and the aviation market in the short term might not have enough demand for the ‘additional frequencies’ mentioned in the airline’s press release.
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Replacing widebodies in the ‘off-season’
During an interview with Simple Flying on May 26th, Qatar Airways Group CEO Akbar Al Baker was asked about his A321neo/A321LR order. While most would expect the airline chief to perhaps discuss new and exciting routes enabled by the long-range narrowbody, His Excellency answered differently, saying:
“The LR is being taken by us so that when there is downtime, you know, our…